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"Sorry About Your Mailbox" - Delivery Stories

Furniture World Magazine


Ways to promote delivery safety and customer satisfaction.

On the way to the airport, my son, a retail furniture manager, told me of his latest delivery incident.One of his drivers knocked over a mailbox. It wasn't the customer's mailbox, but a neighbor's across the street. Even though the driver did go up to the home, apologize and explain that repairs or a replacement would be made promptly, the neighbor was irate. She made an immediate call to the store owner.

As you might expect, Murphy's law held true. The mailbox had been a gift. It was an expensive designer mailbox that would be difficult to replace. (I've never heard of a driver knocking over a rusty bent mailbox on a simple post that could be obtained at Kmart for $10). All told, this incident cost $200 and took time and energy away from the primary focus of the business... selling and delivering furniture. The neighbor will remember the damage far longer than how well the store handled the mailbox replacement.

In reviewing the incident, there were clear violations of basic principles of good delivery management. Here are several rules and procedures that need to be refreshed from time to time which are effective means to minimize hassles and needless expenses.

PICK THE RIGHT TRUCK: Always choose a truck whose size is appropriate for the your customer's location. Sometimes it makes more sense to deliver in your service van than trying to navigate tight quarters with a large straight truck.

LONE DRIVER RULES: Drivers working by themselves must be encouraged to do their own planning and use their mirrors effectively. If necessary they should be instructed to get out of the truck and check clearances before maneuvering.

HELPER POLICY: If a helper is on the truck, it should be standard procedure for the helper to get out of the truck to guide the driver as he backs into a driveway or maneuvers between parked cars or trees. This will save time and reduce your expenditures for mailboxes, shrubs and lawn repair.

ASPHALT DRIVES: Instruct your drivers to beware of new asphalt driveways and even older asphalt drives on extremely hot days. A heavy truck can make ruts or the power steering can dig holes in the pavement.

OVERHEAD CLEARANCE: Beware of overhead clearance restrictions such as tree limbs, wires, walkways, bridges and entrances to parking garages and docks. Decals on the front corners of the box that are visible in the rear view mirrors make inexpensive and effective reminders. To bystanders the numbers are reversed but they show the truck height correctly in the rear view mirror. Almost every retailer has paid for needlessly smashed truck top fronts and damaged corners.

DRIVER QUALIFICATIONS: Drivers must be qualified for the size and weight of truck they are driving. Watch for an upcoming FURNITURE WORLD article on driver qualifications, but in short, requirements range from a basic drivers license to a Commercial Drivers License (CAL) with options of straight truck, semi, doubles combinations, air brakes, hazardous materials and more. The weight brackets are: under 10,000 pounds; 10,000 to 26,000 pounds; and over 26,000 pounds. Driver qualifications are more stringent as weight and vehicle complexity go up.

DRIVER APPEARANCE: Surprising as it may seem, retailers who insist that all their delivery people are neat, clean and well dressed, see coincident improvements in safety performance and customer satisfaction. I always put a full length mirror by the warehouse door so the delivery staff can see how they look to the customers.

ENTRY/ EXIT PROTOCOL: Review your driver's entry and exit procedures. Before entering a customer's home, drivers should always wipe their feet, put down runners when needed and avoid damaging walls. It is just as important to make sure they complete a final wipedown to remove handprints or dust from the product before leaving. It is an excellent idea to request that customers fill out a very brief form regarding the delivery quality, at the same time they sign the delivery slip.

ROLE OF MANAGEMENT: Management bears responsibility to some degree when there is a driving incident even though the warehouse supervisor may want to blame it 100 per cent on the driver. Nevertheless, the driver must pay attention at all times and use the helper.

If you implement these rules and procedures, you can boost customer satisfaction, reduce your costs and make managing the store less stressful.

NEW EQUIPMENT: Keep the above ideas in mind when buying a new truck. In particular, look for truck and box designs that are lower profile, are more maneuverable, have cabs that are easier to get in and out of and have good ergonomics. Whether you use a pullout ramp or a tailgate lift, many of these new designs make the box closer to the ground and easier to use. Don't forget to consider partially or non-opaque roofs that let light in and are more damage resistant than aluminum. Finally, put adequate interior restraints and padding to tie off products so they arrive at the customer in top notch condition.

Daniel Bolger, P.E. provides consulting and management services in the areas of logistics, warehousing and transportation. Questions on this article or others by Mr. Bolger can be directed to dbolger@furninfo.com.